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Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 11th September 2015.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Treasury) 12:50 pm, 11th September 2015

I do not support the Bill. We should maintain the clear principle that this Government, the justice system and the medical profession have upheld for many years—that we do not encourage or help people to commit suicide, and that we should work to prevent all forms of suicide. The Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill would be a departure from that principle, and I believe that we would start to see people in very difficult circumstances becoming even more vulnerable if the Bill were passed.

Clearly at present—we have heard a former DPP, my hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer, lay out the current situation—committing suicide is not illegal but encouraging someone to commit suicide is illegal, and I firmly believe that that protects us all, and that that basic principle against suicide should be upheld. Wednesday was world suicide prevention day. Many moving messages appeared on social media about the importance of preventing suicide, so it is ironic that we should today be debating a Bill that drives our society in the opposite direction.

I have significant concerns about the detail of the Bill, and whether any regulatory regime surrounding the introduction of assisted suicide would be fit for purpose. I would argue, as others have done in this debate, that making assisted suicide legal creates a pressure on people to take their own lives rather than giving them greater choice, because it creates a fundamental shift in people’s perception—that our society accepts suicide. One of the major risks in the Bill has been eloquently outlined by my hon. Friend Lyn Brown, and it is that people will feel under pressure to take their own life if they feel they are becoming a burden to their family or society. That would grow from an illness-related reason to encompass financial ones and even mental health reasons. People in my constituency have written to me about their concerns, saying:

“If this Bill is passed it will put greater pressure on vulnerable people, the elderly and the sick, who will increasingly see themselves as a burden to society. I don’t want to see that.”